Cherry Blossoms Are Just the Beginning

With spring comes a rosier reality than many economic analysts forecasted.


This spring might bring more economic sun than showers, as real GDP for the nation reversed from slumped 2009 levels to an increase of 2.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the Department of Commerce.

In another landmark, the national unemployment rate dropped below 9% for the first time since April 2009 in February as the economy gained roughly 192,000 jobs. According the Wall Street Journal, the private sector alone added 222,000 jobs - its biggest monthly increase since April 2010.

Snow may still be on the ground, but long dormant consumer activity has thawed and made a dynamic return in 2011. The threefold experience of a stronger job market, brightening economic outlook, and a reduction in payroll tax combined are bringing consumers back to the shopping malls.

One example: February auto sales jumped 20%, to almost one million vehicles. "The consumer is back to the showrooms," said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital, as quoted in the Washington Post.

With a 12.6% annual increase in investments as of December and record liquidity, credit unions are willing and able to provide for the nation’s financial needs at record levels this year.

And many are showing a surge in originations over the past six months. In fact, throughout the fourth quarter, credit unions originated $69 billion in loans; a 12% jump from 2009 and the highest fourth quarter volume in industry history.

Credit cards have shone brightest for growth in the loan portfolio in 2010, yet real estate was also bolstered by a 2.7% growth in first mortgages in 4Q.  Delinquency remained stable for the quarter and is down 7 basis points over 2009 levels.

As key penetration metrics increased in 4Q, the cooperative network continued to deepen relationships with existing members and added roughly 603,000 new members to the ranks.

Through managed operating expenses and lowered provision for loan losses, the $4.6 billion in net income generated by credit unions in 2010 will translate to increased stability and greater value for membership while drawing more of these active consumers to participate in the cooperative ideal.

Click here to download a PDF of the 4Q10 Quarterly Report and here to download a PDF of the two-year Consolidated Credit Union Financial Statement.